Choosing a Grid to call home

Often, one of the hardest things to sort out for a new user to OpenSim is finding a place to call “Home”. Your “Home” grid will be the grid where you have created your main avatar, where you may own land or not, and is the grid you trust to care for your inventory and region content if you do own land.
With the ability to “HyperGrid” travel to other grids, your choices should be most heavily influenced by Performance, Backup Procedures, Geographical Location, Community, Trust, Banning Practices, Monetary System, Policies, and Terms of Service.

If you are coming from the “Big” grid, where the ability to travel to other grids does not exist, you may be familiar with their terms, policies, etc., but in the OpenSim community, each grid can have very different policies, terms, practices, etc., so you should be sure to read carefully before you commit, otherwise you risk becoming unhappy with your choice later.

Each grid you encounter may have similar or different Hardware, Software, Network Connections, Features, Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, Management practices, and Support Levels. Each grid can have a similar or very different community feel, so be sure to look around and choose one where you feel most comfortable with what you learn about the grid. Since many users in our community are familiar with one or more grids, ask them as most of the time they will tell you which grids to avoid, which grids to try, what they know about them, etc.
You can also try using google to do some research on a grid, or it’s owners and/or managers.

If you are new to OpenSim and the HyperGrid, your initial choice will have a huge impact on your overall satisfaction with this platform, if you choose well your impression of OpenSim will be very good, but if you make the wrong choice, you’ll swear OpenSim is junk, grid owners can’t be trusted, everyone in OpenSim are crooks, etc, etc.

The truth is, since OpenSim is an Open Source project, “Anyone” can download it, install it, and start advertising to users. The problem is when a user with little or no experience decides to start attracting users with low prices, promises they can’t possibly keep, or worse, begin stealing from you.

OpenSim, in the right hands, is a very usable platform and you can accomplish much on a well configured platform which is using professional grade hardware and network connections, but you have to choose wisely as there are many examples of content theft by some “Questionable” grid owners and owners who look the other way when someone else on the grid chooses to copy your work. Stability is also an important factor, not only with the platform itself, but also the stability of those running the platform.

You may be thinking; “I’ll just choose a grid with a low price, then if it doesn’t work out, I won’t lose much money.” While this is true to some extent, choosing a grid with a low price will almost certainly not end well. Most grids who sell cheap do not have a platform which will protect you and your content. Often times, in order to sell cheap land, a grid owner will cut corners and not have the proper backup space or procedures, will not have a great support system as they cannot afford to pay for professional help, and will not have quality hardware running on a quality network.

Imagine for a moment, you choose a grid which is selling a cheap region so your initial risk is low. You spend days uploading content to use to build your region, setup a store, etc. You spend several more days building, organizing, etc. You spend a week or more marketing your new build, new store, or new region everywhere you can think of, you begin to gain some traffic and things seem to go well, except for when more than 4 or 5 people arrive in your region, then you start experiencing lag and overall poor performance. What you may not know is the grid owner has actually sold you a region which has been placed on an old laptop and is connected to the internet with a slow “Home” internet connection. To make matters worse, as the days turn into months, suddenly, when you try to login you can’t get in. You contact the owner, they tell you there’s been a database crash and all of the content has been lost and they’ll have it back online soon, but you’ll need to re-upload and rebuild your region.
Um.. WHAT??!! You’re kidding, right?

When a grid charges too little for their land, they can’t afford to have the infrastructure in place to protect you from this type of loss, provide you with the best performance, provide you with the best support.. they just can’t as these things cost money and if they don’t charge enough, they can’t afford to do what is needed.

With that said, there are many “Professional” grids out there which do it right, but you have to do some research to be sure you find one.

Maybe you aren’t ready to do this just yet? Maybe the “Cheap” grid will do to let you test things? If you choose “Cheap” land and are aware of what can happen and you are fine with that, then choose the “Cheap” land, just don’t expect too much and keep in the back of your mind; There are many other choices, some which could include “You” running your own copy of opensim on your machine, just do your homework and decide for yourself what is best for you.

In the end, each person may choose a different grid based on their expectations, budget, and needs and it will be up to each individual to choose what is right for them as what is right for one, may or may not be best for someone else.